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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2005 Oct;15(5):557-62.

Epigenetic inheritance in Arabidopsis: selective silence.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


Eukaryotic organisms have the remarkable ability to inherit states of gene activity without altering the underlying DNA sequence. This epigenetic inheritance can persist over thousands of years, providing an alternative to genetic mutations as a substrate for natural selection. Epigenetic inheritance might be propagated by differences in DNA methylation, post-translational histone modifications, and deposition of histone variants. Mounting evidence also indicates that small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated mechanisms play central roles in setting up and maintaining states of gene activity. Much of the epigenetic machinery of many organisms, including Arabidopsis, appears to be directed at silencing viruses and transposable elements, with epigenetic regulation of endogenous genes being mostly derived from such processes.

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